February 24th, 2011
“Have you ever been in a workplace environment in which within days you realize you have entered a “hard hat zone” – except nobody warned you! If you have ever spent too long in a workplace environment in the hopeless optimism that things might get better or that you can change it, perhaps it is better to avoid putting yourself into such a situation in the first place. One sure way to beat a stressful environment is to develop a “zero tolerance policy” say “no” firmly.” Says Christina in her recent article, “How to Avoid a Toxic Workplace: Ten Warning Signs of a Toxic Boss”.
“You make me want to be a better man.” Spoken by Jack Nicholson in the movie As Good As It Gets resonates in my mind as I search companies and organizations for people who are as good as it gets at every level, in fact, who are so good at improving their own performance that they end up elevating those around them. It shouldn’t take words like Nicholson’s however, to make me want to shout, PEOPLE!! A WORKPLACE SHOULD MAKE AN EMPLOYEE…AS GOOD AS IT GETS!And if that aint’ happenin’, YOU’VE got a problem!
A recent report tells how a Court of Appeals recently sheltered an employer from tort liability after he knowingly subjected his employees to hazardous levels of toxic gases and other hazardous materials. While employees repeatedly complained to their employer about the dangerous conditions of their workplace, explaining they were suffering from headaches, respiratory problems, memory loss, etc., the employer, (the company owner) continued to actively conceal safety violations, and run his business.
Clearly, workplace hazards come in different shapes and many sizes.
Each of us (whether employee or employer) come into the workplace determined to make a difference, to be special, to contribute our skills and talents and be recognized for them. When those grand aspirations get worn away by dangerous (mentally and physical) conditions, we lose momentum; consequently, creating a lack of luster to work hard…and fit in. This, my friends, is the telltale sign of a dysfunctional, toxic workplace!
In a recent meeting with other Human Capital executives, we discussed the matter of toxic workplaces or hazardous work environments. It was surprising at how many of us identified that while in some cases, a toxic environment can be traced to one individual within a company or organization, oftentimes systemic factors come into play as well. Increased economic stresses, poor management practices, consistent and unresolved conflict can serve to mask, foster or strongly reinforce toxic behavior or practices. Indifference to the quandaries of employees faced with bullying or other abuses of power are common examples. Identifying the sources of the problem however, is the starting point in developing a good resolution.
So here’s the good news: Fixing the toxic work environment is hopeful! Strategies will include preventative measures like comprehensive hiring and orientation procedures, implementing performance measures, training, and peer and employee performance appraisal systems to address the issues, and of course, developing policies and procedures to build better accountability.
Support for management or business owners is equally important in working towards a positive resolution to addressing toxicity problems. Unfortunately, employers or company owners often find themselves feeling alone, believing they have no one to confer with. This feeling of despondency propels them to do what they’ve learned to do best…IGNORE, hoping the problems go away. Sadly most of them are aware that there are definite bottom line costs of not addressing toxic situations, including lost productivity, high employee turnover, and legal liability if issues remain unchecked.
Being aware of the signs and open to the possibility that a toxic work environment may be developing within your company is only the first step in restoring your business back to health however.
Many companies and organizations are turning to third-party examiners to investigate the facts of the situation without any internal bias toward the individuals involved in the situation. As well, they present their findings to management, but are not involved in the resolution. While this may be a good starting point to recovery, a better one would be to include a third-party to investigate, AND help implement better business practices, policies, and performance improvement strategies.
The most powerful and effective role of a third-party is that of an arbitrator and coach. An arbitrator listens to presentations made by all involved, examines any written materials or other evidence relating to a problem, and then makes a determination of how a conflict or situation should be resolved.
When a company manager or business owner works with LPLGroup, they gain access to people management expertise! We believe that excellent human capital management can ONLY happen within the context of a healthy company culture. If you’ve entered the “hard hat zone” without warning, you might want to contact us! After all, don’t you think it’s time for SOMEONE to listen and understand the ins and outs of your company culture?
January 19th, 2011
January 10, 2011, 8:54 am
Jane MacKenzie Says:
What is your right if you are being bullied at work and are off on sick leave because of it. you can’t go to the boss she is the one doing the bulling so who do you go to or what can you do. She threatens to ruin my life around town.
January 10, 2011, 10:16 am
Janie, It is very difficult to offer advice without knowing more about your situation. However, you might talk to your human resource rep to see what can be done about the problem. You might also go to your boss’s boss but I would not do this without carefully considering the potential ramifications and getting a second and third opinion from trusted colleagues who know your situation.
January 18, 2011, 12:41 pm
Harriet van Staveren Says:
I agree that it is indeed difficult to offer advice without knowing more about your situation. Depending on where you live however, you may find that discussing your matter with local authorities will be helpful. Not only will they inform you of your legal rights, they will be able to refer you to other organizations or groups for help and/or support.
As a self help, I recommend the book, Toxic People, by Lillian Glass. Dr. Glass not only helps people identify the toxic people in their lives, but also provides techniques for successfully dealing with them.
I have worked as an HR Consultant and Business Coach for 20+ years; my experience is that bullies cloak themselves very well and are unfortunately, difficult to “catch in the act.”
Having said this, I must also add however, that unless victims are able to examine their own reactions to the bullying, they may not be able to ACCURATELY identify the inappropriate behaviors inflicted on them… and as you know, without being able to identify the behavior (exactly), you hardly stand a chance of being heard.
To that end, educate yourself, and seek help outside your workplace. Sad to say, if that doesn’t work, you may have to change jobs.